Monday, January 21, 2019 | ePaper

Phillipines heist

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BANGLADESH'S central bank will file a lawsuit in New York against a Philippine bank over the world's largest cyber heist, as said by our Finance Minister on Wednesday. Unidentified hackers stole $81 million in February 2016 from the Bangladesh central bank's account with the US Federal Reserve in New York. The money was transferred to a Manila branch of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC), then quickly withdrawn and laundered through local casinos.

With only a small amount of the stolen money recovered and frustration growing in Dhaka,  Finance Minister A.M.A Muhith said last year he wanted to "wipe out" RCBC. On Wednesday he said Bangladesh Bank lawyers were discussing the case in New York and may file a joint lawsuit against the RCBC with the US Federal Reserve. The Deputy Governor of Bangladesh Bank Razee Hassan told AFP the case would be filed in April.

The Philippines in 2016 imposed a record $21 million fine on RCBC after investigating its role in the audacious cyber heist. Philippine authorities have also filed money-laundering charges against the RCBC branch manager. The bank has rejected the allegations and last year accused Bangladesh's central bank of a "massive cover-up".

The hackers bombarded the US Federal Reserve with dozens of transfer requests, attempting to steal a further $850 million. But the bank's security systems and typing errors in some requests prevented the full theft. The hack took place on a Friday, when Bangladesh Bank is closed. The Federal Reserve Bank in New York is closed on Saturday and Sunday, slowing the response.

Under tort law  "imputed liability" occurs when there is an attachment of responsibility to a person for harm or damages caused by another person in either a negligence lawsuit or criminal prosecution. Thus, an employer of an employee who injures someone through negligence while in the scope of employment (doing work for the employer) is vicariously liable for damages to the injured person. Under the law then, both the employees of Bangladesh Bank and Rizal Banking Corp can equally be brought under criminal persecution.

Instead of spending further millions to get back our monies our government could easily manage an agreement with the Philippines government to get back the amounts we have lost. The Philippines government has already fined Rizal Bank USD 21 million --which we could get back through negotiations. The fact that we have been unable to do so represents our total failure to come to an agreement with the Philippines government. Instead of opening lawsuits Bangladesh Bank should be looking at a rapprochement with the Philippines government to get back what is ours. Fighting long and costly legal battles which could potentially stretch over years is not the way to go.

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